Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Click Here to Begin Slideshow You have to take a second look at J. Ebert’s car to figure out it’s not what it looks like. At a glance you’d think it’s a ’69 Camaro, but underneath it’s actually a ’69 Firebird. Dick Kornowski—the builder of the car—wasn’t planning any funny stuff. He just bought an old Firebird with a poorly-installed flip-up front end and decided to turn it into something no one else had. “If I had bought a frame kit and put a Camaro body on it to build a resto-mod, no one would have given it a second thought,” Dick told Hotrod Hotline. “But, I bought a Firebird frame and put a Camaro body on it.” Building the car was a retirement project that took 11 years. The Camaro and Firebird were called “pony cars” because they were created as a marketing reaction to the Ford’s very successful Mustang. The Mustang grille had a chrome rectangle (nicknamed a “corral”) and galloping pony inside it. So, the “pony” name stuck for the sporty cars of all brands that the Mustang inspired: Camaro, Firebird, Cougar, Barracuda, Challenger and Javelin. Camaros and Firebirds used the same basic body shell, with different sheet metal “tailoring.” Chevy rushed the Camaro into showrooms in the fall of 1966. Pontiac spent five extra months to finish the Firebird and introduce it at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 23, 1967. Different sheet metal was used for the Firebird hood, grille and taillight panels. Firebirds also had Pontiac motors and a chassis tuned by Pontiac engineers. The Firebird’s suspension was firmer than that of the Camaro. Dick Kornowski studied the similarities of the two cars. He found that Firebird doors and Camaro doors fit exactly the same. He says that alone told him his plan to build the car as a Camaro would work. The engine in the car is a big-block Chevrolet 454, but it’s been bored .060 over and has 496 cubic inches. It mounts a Holley 850 four-barrel carburetor with a vacuum secondary. A true dual exhaust system with headers and “short” tailpipes was installed, but current owner J. Ebert wants to extend them out back. The car has gone 505.3 miles since it was restored. It’s fast and fun. Features of the build include a Muncie four-speed, a Hurst floor shifter. power steering, power 4-wheel disc brakes, an aluminum radiator and de-clutching fan, front control arms with 4-degrees of extra caster for better steering action, coil overs and a 4-link rear suspension. The rims are five-spoke Viston Legends with Nitto NT555 245/40ZR18 tires. The interior is almost 100% Camaro SS with aftermarket gauges and a stock-looking radio. Kornowski left the Firebird dash and cowl in the car to make it easier to register (as a Pontiac—but not a Firebird). If you don’t know whether to call the car a Camaro or a Firebird, don’t worry. Just all it cool! Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

You have to take a second look at J. Ebert’s car to figure out it’s not what it looks like. At a glance you’d think it’s a ’69 Camaro, but underneath it’s actually a ’69 Firebird. Dick Kornowski—the builder of the car—wasn’t planning any funny stuff. He just bought an old Firebird with a poorly-installed flip-up front end and decided to turn it into something no one else had.

“If I had bought a frame kit and put a Camaro body on it to build a resto-mod, no one would have given it a second thought,” Dick told Hotrod Hotline. “But, I bought a Firebird frame and put a Camaro body on it.” Building the car was a retirement project that took 11 years.

The Camaro and Firebird were called “pony cars” because they were created as a marketing reaction to the Ford’s very successful Mustang. The Mustang grille had a chrome rectangle (nicknamed a “corral”) and galloping pony inside it. So, the “pony” name stuck for the sporty cars of all brands that the Mustang inspired: Camaro, Firebird, Cougar, Barracuda, Challenger and Javelin.

Camaros and Firebirds used the same basic body shell, with different sheet metal “tailoring.” Chevy rushed the Camaro into showrooms in the fall of 1966. Pontiac spent five extra months to finish the Firebird and introduce it at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 23, 1967.

Different sheet metal was used for the Firebird hood, grille and taillight panels. Firebirds also had Pontiac motors and a chassis tuned by Pontiac engineers. The Firebird’s suspension was firmer than that of the Camaro.

Dick Kornowski studied the similarities of the two cars. He found that Firebird doors and Camaro doors fit exactly the same. He says that alone told him his plan to build the car as a Camaro would work.
The engine in the car is a big-block Chevrolet 454, but it’s been bored .060 over and has 496 cubic inches. It mounts a Holley 850 four-barrel carburetor with a vacuum secondary. A true dual exhaust system with headers and “short” tailpipes was installed, but current owner J. Ebert wants to extend them out back. The car has gone 505.3 miles since it was restored. It’s fast and fun.

Features of the build include a Muncie four-speed, a Hurst floor shifter. power steering, power 4-wheel disc brakes, an aluminum radiator and de-clutching fan, front control arms with 4-degrees of extra caster for better steering action, coil overs and a 4-link rear suspension. The rims are five-spoke Viston Legends with Nitto NT555 245/40ZR18 tires.

The interior is almost 100% Camaro SS with aftermarket gauges and a stock-looking radio. Kornowski left the Firebird dash and cowl in the car to make it easier to register (as a Pontiac—but not a Firebird).
If you don’t know whether to call the car a Camaro or a Firebird, don’t worry. Just all it cool!

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

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About John Gunnell 143 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

1 Comment on Take a Second Look at this 1969 Camaro-Bird

  1. HUH? What? Where?
    I don’t see anything to do with a ‘Bird’.
    Is it a secret?New version of the game ‘Clue’? 😉

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